Friday, June 04, 2010

The Reform of the Reform? Not Yet

A recent post on NLM prompts me to take up the question anew: Exactly what is the "reform of the reform"?

Liturgically astute observers often describe novus ordo (ordinary form) Masses celebrated in a solemn, beautiful, and more-traditional way (e.g., Latin, ad orientem, only male servers, etc.) as "reform of the reform" Masses. Such celebrations might be described more accurately as examples of the "recatholicization of the reform" proposed by Msgr. M. Francis Mannion.[1] It is a distinction with a real difference.

Both agendas arose from the premise that the liturgical reforms enacted after 1965, when the Second Vatican Council ended, often exceeded the reforms actually prescribed by the Council, and that greater continuity should have been maintained between the Missal of 1962 (the most recent pre-conciliar missal) and the Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970. However, they propose different remedies for improving the deficiencies of the earlier reform.
The agenda of reforming the reform seeks to heal the rift between the old and new forms of the Roman rite by bringing them together in substantial unity. This would inevitably involve structural changes to the present liturgical order. Within the “reform of the reform” camp, a spectrum of positions exists and a variety of schemes are proposed.[2] For example, as to the utility of the 1962 Missal in reforming the reform, some view it as the point of departure for an alternative implementation of the reforms prescribed by the Council, while others view it as the point of reference for guiding the present Mass in a traditional direction. Either way, the goal is liturgical life in discernible continuity with the spirit, forms and texts of the historic Roman rite as developed organically over the course of many centuries. Practically speaking, this would have to mean an order of Mass more closely related to the 1962 Missal than to the Missal "of Paul VI."
By contrast, the recatholicization of the reform is not interested primarily in rewriting the liturgical books in a traditional direction (or, for that matter, in a progressive direction), but rather in celebrating the revised liturgy in a manner which makes it more expressive of liturgical tradition and which highlights the transcendent character and sacred ethos of Catholic worship.
Both of these two programs, the "reform of the reform" and the "recatholicization of the reform," are corrective approaches to liturgical renewal within tradition. Both represent distinct, though complementary, strands of the new Liturgical Movement called for by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.[3] Adherents of both these positions have been encouraged by the Holy Father's liturgical writings and personal liturgical example.
Nevertheless, only one of these two programs, namely recatholicization, can be put into practice right now because it requires no changes to the existing set of liturgical options. The reform of the reform, on the other hand, depends on more than the Pope's personal liturgical example, more than improved translations, more than adherence to the rubrics and disciplinary norms... As my friend is wont to say with no hint of legalism, "We are a Church of law." Until such legislative baby steps as the rescinding of certain permissions and exceptions (indults) are taken,[4] the reform of the reform cannot be said to have begun in earnest.
[1] See M. Francis Mannion, "The Catholicity of the Liturgy," in Beyond the Prosaic: Renewing the Liturgical Movement, ed. Stratford Caldecott (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998), 11-48. Msgr. Mannion founded the Society for Catholic Liturgy in 1995.

[2] See T. M. Kocik, The Reform of the Reform? A Liturgical Debate: Reform or Return (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2003).

[3] J. Ratzinger, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, trans. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998), 149; idem, The Spirit of the Liturgy, trans. John Saward (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000), 8-9.

[4] Would it be too extreme to withdraw permission for the use of white vestments at Masses for the dead (except perhaps in countries where white is the color of mourning)? or for the presence of cremated remains at funeral Masses?

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